The Silver Club – with its eccentric elder men and out-of-shape ladies – cradled me at a time when I needed the comforts of realizing that I had reached a new me: Disabled. 

By Aglaia Davis

It was May 2017 when I had what I thought would be my last bad fall from a horse, breaking my scapula.  A weight-lifter by morning – religious as the rising sun – I was quick into devastation at realizing that my “good arm” (the other suffered – and healed from – a broken clavicle, also by way of riding accident, in 2012) would not support my pushups each morning.  Undiagnosed for a solid week before the 4th Manhattan Orthopod I went to got it right, I dragged myself to the New York Sports Clubs locations that I frequented each morning on the Upper West Side – West 80thand West 73rd– and tried to force myself through modified routines.  But the pain was searing – too intense, in fact, to even endure basic cardio routines – and drove me out of the weight rooms I haunted almost in tears.  By the day after Memorial Day Weekend, diagnosed with a shoulder blade fracture that had crippled – but, somehow, not torn – my left Rotator Cuff, I was assigned to a sling and relative non-mobility for 6-8 weeks.

I have never been a truly compliant patient.  In 2012, my Orthopod forbade me from doing anything at the gym that strayed beyond the confines of the recline bicycle, though my rapid recovery never betrayed that I was using the revolving staircase two days after my fracture – arm in a sling – and in the weight room doing modified lifting not long after surgery.  Perhaps because I was younger then, my healing was uncomplicated and the strength in my right arm returned at breakneck speed.

But the 2017 injury – inclusive of the wear and tear I had given my body through years of athletics and no rest – was not so forgiving this time round. Though my Rotator Cuff was seen by MRI scan as unaffected, the harm it sustained from the scapula fracture – and, for at least a week thereafter, my unforgiving if forced use of it – told a contrary tale. I could no longer lift; could no longer do pushups; and, like a beaten dog, could no longer show my face in the weight rooms full of the guys I worked out aside every morning for years without emotional distress.  The pain forced me to realize that, for as long as it took, the left arm had to heal and that I, hard as it was, had to let it.

I cannot remember the first day that I discovered The Silver Club.  Mind you, that wasn’t its real name. Its REAL name was New York Sports Club West 76thStreet at Broadway, in a theatre building where you could blink and miss the little sign indicating there was a gym there.  Down the stairs to the basement level, there was a miniscule club with a very (emphasis on VERY) small weight area, scant weight machines, and, in the back, a string of very limited cardio equipment. The gym was tiny, but almost never dotted with more than a few silver-haired members looking to get in a late morning ablution at the same time.  It sported one (ONE) personal trainer.  Air conditioning was rarely functioning and, even if so, just as rarely utilized by those in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, who called the gym theirs and found temps 80 degrees and above comfortable.

But let me rewind.  At some point over the summer, my Orthopod prescribed me Physical Therapy, hoping to ease the pain in my Rotator Cuff that made simple movements painful.  I attended PT faithfully, and was assigned weightless movements – that’s right, weightless movements – that I was embarrassed to perform in the “real” gyms I used to haunt.  For a woman who once bench pressed 110 lbs., suddenly lifting my left shoulder against nothing but gravity – or performing a “pushup” against the wall while standing – seemed like a fall greater than from the steed I’d been riding in May.

Enter “The Silver.”  Whatever the day, I happened upon it and realized – like Eyeore with his popped birthday balloon and empty honey jar – that its “no there there” offering was absolutely perfect for a body in need of rehab.  No one was at the Silver to even seeme do weightless exercises, save for the woman doing the same thing one morning and marveling that we were both in rehab.  Sure, some days there would be activity in the weight area, but never anything that made me feel sorry that I couldn’t partake in the lifting activities of old. The Silver Club – with its eccentric elder men and out-of-shape ladies – cradled me at a time when I needed the comforts of realizing that I had reached a new me: Disabled.  Not seriously disabled, mind you, but disabled to an extent that, at some point, I realized I would never truly recover from.  Sure, I would lift again, but only my own body weight.

When my injury reached its maximum healing – and it did, slowly but surely – my left arm was no longer strong enough to lift more than 40 lbs., and its shoulder no longer youthful enough to tolerate more than a few pushups in a row before complaining.  I accepted the reality that my days of lifting with the “big boys” at West 80thStreet were behind me, much like a racehorse’s finest hour is lost the moment she crosses the finish line in first place.

And so it was.  The beginning of my semi-retirement from weight lifting began my affair with the only gym that I truly loved in my 20 years of Manhattan gym-rat-dom.  I withstood the insults I heard about The Silver Club from people at the “real’ New York Sports Clubs locations (“That place is a dump”); numerous days without air-conditioning; and aged carpeting in the locker room, all without complaint.  The Silver became one of the highlights of my weekly workouts, and a club for which I often came up with slogans to one day advertise it by subway train (“Don’t Go Gray, Go Silver”), while concocting great ways to capitalize on its appeal to the retired set. After all, no other gyms in my neck of the woods catered to the “serviceably sound” crowd.

But The Silver Club – like my left rotator cuff – retired early.  The rumors circling in September 2018 came to fruition in October, when a notice went up that The Silver would shutter its doors on Halloween night.  In its final days, I visited as often as I could, overhearing the silver-haired set I had happily belonged to bemoaning which New York Sports Club location might be a distant second for them.  I advised one such woman that there was no close second, because the reality was that all of the others in our area were “serious” gyms where the crowds donned workout shorts rather than jeans, and the weight room contained more than three (3) benches that could all be set up at once.

I bid farewell to New York Sports Club West 76thStreet at Broadway on the last day of its existence, October 31, 2018. I snapped pictures of its empty weight room, me in it, to remind of the little gym that rehabbed me from my 2017 injury.  I was even given permission to take a sign prohibiting cell phone use from the wall – a small something to remember it by.  But I wouldn’t forget it.

In early 2018, I returned to riding.  I have also since gone back to weight lifting – albeit to a modified degree – with “real” weights.  In truth, I don’t regret my injury as I did when it happened, a little because it’s now a part of me, and a little because it taught me to slow down and learn to be satisfied with what my body coulddo.  Oh yeah, and, at age 41, it gifted me with a membership to the only Club I would ever have chosen to be a lifetime member of.

R.I.P. N.Y.S.C. W. 76tha/k/a “The Silver Club”

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